I love it when an engaging story is told with no words. If you are in animation, and interested in visual storytelling, I highly recommend seeing the award winning French film Minuscule: Valley of the Lost Ants. I had seen a few of the shorts made for television, but was not aware of the feature until running across the DVD while shopping online. It must have received little publicity in the United States. Released in France in 2014, the movie was written and directed by Thomas Szabo, and Hélène Giraud.
The story concerns a ladybug, and a band of black ants who discover a massive treasure in the form of a tin filled with sugar cubes. While hauling it back to their anthill, they run into some red ants who play the part of bandits trying to steal it. That is the beginning of an exciting chase, and and it all leads to a climactic scene that worked on the scale of the Lord of the Rings movies.
For the most part the insects play their roles with the seriousness of a nature film. The ladybug has a sad backstory and some of the bugs engage in hobbies, but otherwise, it’s mostly about survival. Which goes to show that life and death situations can still be funny. There are a variety of other creatures with small parts that fill out the environment as being a world busy with drama and comedy.
The cinematography is quite impressive. The movie uses live action backgrounds, into which the cartoony insects are placed. I loved how they had fun playing with scale, and how the size of something was used to get a laugh, either by making it seem really big, or really small.
The American trailer for the film is ruined by a lame voiceover, so I’m not going to post that. There are several “making of” videos on YouTube, and this one about the sound does a particularly good job of showing how the film is experienced. The sound design also enhanced the presentation of the scale of objects from the bugs perspective. The musical score helped create a lot of drama and excitement. I recommend listening with headphones.
HERE is a link to the Minuscule playlist on YouTube, where you can see all of the TV episodes. They are not quite as high quality as the feature. I’ll post this one that uses the age-old gag of something sticky that’s hard to get loose from: